Buchan Divers are a small group dedicated to the location, identification, exploration and research of the sunken wreck heritage off the North East of Scotland. Our focus area is mainly the Buchan coast which, technically stretches from St Combs, just north of Rattray Head to Whinnyfold near Cruden Bay in the south - however our wreck searches generally range from north of Fraserburgh to Aberdeen.
The group of divers consists of skipper and researcher Roger Mathison, divers Mike Rosie, Mike Wilcox, Jim Burke and underwater cameraman, Tony Ray. The group has its roots in the old Peterhead BSAC Branch, Number 1804 which wound up in 1999 due to falling membership. Around then Mike and Jim met on their Trimix open circuit course and began diving together. At this time only four of the offshore Buchan wrecks were known; the Muriel, Fram, Bel Lily and the St Magnus. Rog would kindly skipper the Buchan Diver, a 6.5m RIB with 140HP outboard to ferry us back and forth to these great ‘starter’ wrecks. Gradually, having explored every nook and cranny of the Muriel and St Magnus, we began to venture further - searching in the winter months - cold, grey days - for wrecks we would dive in the coming spring and summer season. We found the St Glen, Anvers, Simonburn and Remuera in this way and had a great period of RIB based diving.
In 2001 we purchased our first hard boat, the Buchan Elle, an old offshore fast rescue craft with a great engine but in sore need of a refit. We spent the next 3 years rebuilding her - and she was eventually launched in 2004. A great boat, loads of room to get kitted up in, sturdy and built like a brick. Unfortunately the extra weight from the rebuild had shifted her centre of gravity and reduced her speed significantly – so, while she took the seas very well, she was slow compared to what we were expecting, more importantly, without an enclosed cabin, she was pretty wet and cold for Rog. Still we found and dived the Charles Goodanew and Sofie Bakke from her and visited many of the other wrecks we had found previously with the RIB. But she was too cold and exposed for long journeys or the hours of wreck hunting necessary to find many new marks, so we rarely ventured far in her.
In 2006 we decided to upgrade to something more comfortable and invested in an 11m Procharter, based on the very successful Offshore 105 hull, she is a fibreglass boat with a 370HP inboard diesel and jet-drive. She has a heated cabin which comfortably seats 5 plus skipper with forward heads and two sleeping berths. More importantly a small galley for tea, coffee and breakfasts, most welcome on an all day wreck searching trip. She'll do 28 knots, but comfortable and fuel efficient at 18 knots with 6 divers and kit. We have fitted her with all the wreck searching kit we need; 3 GPS sounder/plotters, including a Humminbird side imaging sounder, Starfish side-scan sonar, proton magnetometer, radar and on-board computer. With the BE 2, as she is known, our wreck exploration gained a platform to really take off. We have ventured the 30 miles north to dive the Astronomer in the crystal blue waters found that far away from land, we have also pushed further offshore, beyond the 12 mile limit and spent many days searching and finding wrecks based on the inaccurate marks passed to us by fishermen from old Decca charts.
It is perhaps fitting that one of the last wrecks we located and dived is one of the first that we searched for back in 2001 - the U1206. This WWII U-boat, with a fascinating story, was an early target for us - we spent many long cold February days searching for her in the RIB, finding nothing but flat seabed (we were searching 3 miles north of where we eventually found her). After nearly 12 years we had almost given up, but at last we were rewarded with a fantastic dive on her in May this year.
Having now found practically all the wrecks in the area we have decided to publish our research. We hope you find the details of the ships, their story, dive details and some of Tony's video's interesting. We have also published the detailed marks that we have guarded secretively for many years, never revealing them beyond our small group until now. Safe in the knowledge that we would be the only group diving them and that they would not be disrespected, we now hope that any divers using our details to visit them will respect them and look but not touch.
Our journey will continue. We are venturing beyond the 12 mile UK fishing limit to find the large but much deeper wrecks out there. These include the massive WWI tanker William Rockefeller and the cargo liners Cape York and Port Denison (sister ship of the Port Napier). We will add these wrecks, and more to the site as we find them.